Meeting Candidates Restores Faith in Democracy
Unless you’ve already taken advantage of early voting, Tuesday will mark the latest venture into selecting our nation’s next president. And if you’re like a large swath of the American public, you may be filled with dismay over the choices.
It was the third such event I had attended this year. The first two, during primary season, included local and statewide races. This one concerned candidates for our district’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the state House and Senate.
Lack of Posturing
After the circus-like atmosphere that has surrounded the presidential race, one thing I found so refreshing was the lack of posturing and political sloganeering. I came away with the sense that all the candidates who appeared were in the race because they want to help West Virginia out of its dire straits.
There was no trading of insults, no personal puffery, and no attacks on anyone’s opponents. I had gone hoping to meet a third-party candidate for the U.S. House seat, having been impressed by a pre-election column he had written. Unfortunately, a scheduling conflict kept him away. Because of a death in the family, the incumbent couldn’t make it, either.
Still, the one congressional candidate who showed up proved a likeable, decent young man. Despite his first time running, I gave him high marks for candor. He fielded a range of questions that were tough enough to trip up a presidential candidate, yet he never ducked. If he didn’t know that much about an issue, he said so.
While I still had to do more research about his stance on various issues, I could see him succeeding in the future even if he doesn’t win this year.
It wasn’t just the candidates’ refreshing demeanor that encouraged me. During the meeting I learned other things about our state that I had never read about in any media or heard discussed elsewhere.
For example, in a discussion about education I learned that certain counties—facing dwindling student enrollments and lack of resources—are forging informal cooperative agreements. In one county that is closing two high schools, students are being permitted to cross county lines to attend existing facilities closer to where they live.
That makes extraordinarily common sense. So does counties merging administrative responsibilities and back office tasks to make up for the plunging tax revenues amid the state’s coal crisis.
I also heard forward-looking comments about West Virginia’s energy future. One perceptive observation was how 30 years down the road, solar power is likely to provide a wealth of residential energy needs. Then there was the rather blunt (for this state) admission that the coal industry “is not coming back.”
Encouraged About the Future
I left that meeting feeling much better about where I live and the future of our nation. In the modern glare of 24-7 news coverage in every medium possible, I think we have gotten a bad case of presidential myopia. While the person at the top is indeed important, so are thousands of others at the local and state level, regardless of where you live.
While you may not be enthusiastic about the names at the top of the ticket, remember that the choices you make on the rest of your ballot will probably have more direct impact on your daily life. So go vote.